Something borrowed…from nothing new

A slew of retro-styled cameras has appeared on the market of late. Olympus, Fujifilm, Nikon and Leica (have I left anyone out?) have all released high-end digital cameras that look like they were designed and built in the sixties, or before.

Frankly, I find it strange that while some people demand the latest tech wizardry, they want it dressed in decidedly old-tech clothing. Anyway, with all this nostalgic retroness in the air I thought it might be fun to dig around some old magazines and find a few genuine retro camera ads. The ads below date from the the sixties through the nineties. They all appeared in National Geographic magazine, from where I scanned them.

Who would have thought, as we embraced the digital revolution,  it’s not the latest and greatest that gets us salivating, it’s the oldies but goldies? Perhaps if the current trend continues your next digital camera might look like one of these.

Of course, in their day there was nothing at all retro about these cameras. They represented the pinnacle of camera technology.  I hope you enjoy these ads from days gone by. Perhaps you’ve owned, or better, perhaps you still own and use one or more of these beauties.

Maybe you’d like to share your “old timer” camera experiences with the rest of us. If so, just drop a comment in the appropriate place.

Honeywell Pentax Spotmatic old magazine ad 60s national geographic
If I remember correctly this was the first camera with TTL light metering capability. I think the “Honeywell” appellation only applied to Pentax cameras sold in the USA.In other territories it was known as the Asahi Pentax
polaroid cameras advertisment national geographic
In pre-digital photography days, using a Polaroid was about as close as you could get to “live view”. A picture in 60 seconds. Yowsers!
olympus om 1 advertisement national geographic
The revolutionary, diminutive Olympus OM1. In my opinion one of the finest cameras ever made. I’ve owned several of them over the years, and it was also my very first camera.
yashica 35mm slr camera ad national geogrpahic
Yashica attempts to lure photographers with electronics. Maybe they should’ve stuck to making great medium format cameras, like the Yashicamat 124.
minolta maxxum dynax 7000 autofocus 35mm camera national geographic
The Minolta 7000 AF SLR was the first truly autofocus 35mm SLR camera with a body- integrated AF design and a host of new AF lenses built around the camera. I remember someone bringing one of these to the office I worked in at the time and we were all blown away by this new-fangled autofocus business.
$200 canon camera ad national geographic
$200 for a full-on 35mm SLR camera, probably including the 50mm lens, isn’t bad. These days you could hardly buy a lens cap for that price.
kodak brownie target six-20 vintage camera
Perhaps if Kodak had made digital cameras that looked like this old Brownie Target Six-20, they would have fared better in our nostalgic yet high-tech world.


  1. Wonderful post, thanks Graham. What amazes me is the amount of copy many of these advertisements have compared to what we see now. As a veteran 😉 copywriter yourself, have you noticed a requirement to become ever more pithy in your writing over the years?

    1. Thanks for the kind words, Gavin. The debate about long vs. short copy has been going on since time immemorial. Direct response writers have always known that – all things being equal – long copy generally outsells short copy. But on the award-winning “creative” side of things copy is often regarded merely as an impediment to design. However, the copy in some of these ads is so bland it may as well not be there at all.

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